If you thought Yamaha was better known for audio home cinema gear than tellies - you'd be absolutely right. But that doesn't mean the brand can't do a decent TV when it wants to. Its exceptionally good PDM-1 50in plasma screen proved that. So we're very happy to see Yamaha back on the TV scene with a more affordable 42in model, the PDM-4210.
This newcomer doesn't look like anything special though - its vaguely metallic, straight-laced design is seriously old-school. The connections are thankfully rather more forward-thinking, with highlights including a Scart socket, two sets of component video inputs and a video-friendly digital DVI connection.
Given its price - quite high for a 42in plasma these days - it's a relief to find the Yamaha well stocked with features. The most interesting is ALiS. This defines pixels electronically rather than physically, allowing the screen to have more pixels and therefore more fine detail, higher brightness and smoother edges.
This is the same technology used by Fujitsu and Hitachi on their plasma TVs, implying that the PDM-4210 is not all Yamaha's own work...Such licensing of other brands' core plasma technologies is by no means uncommon however, and if you're going to buy-in plasma technology you could do a lot worse than pick Hitachi or Fujitsu.
Pretty onscreen menus play host to reams of picture adjustments - far too much to cover here. One thing we can say is that many bear a striking similarity to the features found on Hitachi's plasma screens...The Yamaha's pictures are instantly likeable. Indulging ourselves with a run-through of Kill Bill Volume 1 on DVD, we were blown away by its colours.
The scene where The Bride pulls up outside Vernita Green's house in her dazzlingly painted wagon and walks through a garden full of colourful kid's toys simply glowed with health and vitality.
The picture is superbly bright - thanks in part, no doubt, to ALiS. And ALiS also seems to play its part with fine detail. The intense graininess of the opening black and white close-up of The Bride's bloodied head had maximum impact, while an impeccable portrayal of textures gives pictures loads of depth and naturalism.
An impressive black level response adds to the picture's solidity, ensuring that even tricky dark scenes look vivid and sharp. There are just two weaknesses. A distaste for low-quality sources - like TV - is a minor one. A major one is its price. Hitachi's similar 42PD5200 costs just £2,700 - for what appears to be more or less the same level of performance.
While its price hints at luxury, the Yamaha is really an overpriced regular model. Great if you have money to burn and really must have a Yamaha screen to match your system.